Villa Beausoleil

The current state of the world, plus recipes...

Location: Boston, MA

I try to keep up with the news, obsessively read my favorite blogs and try not to burn things while I'm surfing the internet...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Fascism comes to New Bedford

In case you missed it, the New Bedford Standard Times reported on Friday that a student at UMass Dartmouth earned a visit from two federal Homeland Security agents because he filled out an interlibrary loan form at the college library for a copy of Mao's Little Red Book. He was doing research for a paper for his class on fascism and totalitarianism. As my friend Jen says, the terrorists have won. If they hate our freedoms (according to Dubya), they have won. If their goal was to spread paranoia in America, they have won. What a waste of resources. The Little Red Book is available at any major bookstore, and you can pay in cash. What are the chances of terrorists filling out forms at libraries for a book they can obtain anonymously? What on earth is the justification for requiring a social security number for library loan? Why did the student want to remain anonymous when the story was reported in the press? If his class was teaching him anything, it should have been teaching him that the only way to fight fascism and totalitarianism is for every citizen to fight against it, and to be proud of standing up against the government. I hope the professor changes his mind about cancelling a class he was intending to teach on terrorism. I hope he goes ahead with it, and I hope it's the most popular class in school, with students fearlessly challenging government tactics that chill freedom of expression and try to control information in this country. I would have been the first to sign up. My husband is French. We spent our honeymoon recently in France. We socialized with Muslim friends there. If Big Brother is out there monitoring my blog, I'll have a plate of Holiday cookies ready for you when you show up at my door.


Blogger LarryE said...

Just FYI from Plymouth way, I sent this to the Standard-Times:

I noted with deep concern but a certain amount of amusement the story about a senior at UMass Dartmouth who was visited by federal agents after he made an inter-library request for a copy of Mao's so-called "Little Red Book" - which, in the interest of accuracy, I'll mention is actually called "Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung."

The concern is drawn from the fact that this clearly demonstrates that the feds are watching what we read and that reading the "wrong" books puts you under suspicion. We don't have to imagine a potential impact on free speech, free political association, and the free flow of information, it's right there in the article: The student who "is not coming forward because he fears repercussions" and Dr. Williams' reconsideration of a course on terrorism because "it might put his students at risk."

(And by the way, why in heaven's name should someone have to supply a name, address, telephone number, and social security number just to request a library book? I could understand the school wanting him to prove he was a student in order to use the university's inter-library loan system - but why all that personal information? And why was it stored? And how did the feds get it? Can this be anything other than not only enabling the feds to see if we're reading "wrong" books but actually making it convenient for them to do so?)

The amusement, on the other hand, was found in the idea that a 40-year-old collection of the mostly pedestrian observations of this man who has been dead for nearly 30 years would be on some kind - indeed, any kind - of "watch list." It would be hard to suggest a better example of the admixture of paranoia and incompetence that drives the Department for the Security of the Fatherland.

But since the anointed Guardians of Our Security have made it clear that our reading habits are proper subjects of intrusive scrutiny, I will do my patriotic duty and openly admit here and now that I actually own a copy of "Quotations from Chairman Mao." I don't know if it's an "official" translation, but since it came directly from an agency of the Chinese government, I imagine it's pretty close.

1:32 AM  

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